CARSON, Calif. – It was a record night for Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the LA Galaxy’s convincing 7-2 thrashing of Sporting Kansas City in front of a Dignity Health Sports Park crowd of 22,465 on Sunday. It wasn’t a bad night for Sebastian Lletget, either.
More of the post-game attention understandably was on Ibrahimovic, who broke the club’s single-season goal-scoring mark with a hat trick that gave him 26 goals on the year, breaking the old record of 24 set by Carlos Ruiz in 2002. But it was a memorable night as well for Lletget, who scored for the first time in almost six months. He scored in the 77th and 79th minutes as the Galaxy jumped into fifth place in the wild Western Conference playoff race.
“It means a lot,” Lletget said of his performance. “It means more that it came at a great time, when we needed it most.”
Head coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto couldn’t have agreed more.
“I think Sebastian is a very important player for us,” he said. “When he plays well, the team can play well.”
The Galaxy had been struggling lately in a 1-5-2 slide that left them on the outside looking in – at least temporarily – as far as the Western Conference playoffs were concerned. And when Sporting Kansas City took a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute Sunday, there definitely was cause for alarm.
Ibrahimovic, Lletget and the Galaxy, however, had other ideas en route to scoring the most goals in a game since an 8-1 romp over FC Dallas in June of 1998. Ibrahimovic equalized in the 32nd minute, Joe Corona scored his first goal as a member of the Galaxy just 16 minutes later, and the scoring deluge had begun.
Lletget was more than happy to join in on the fun, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the Galaxy desperate to qualify for the postseason.
“It’s just great we got this win,” he said. “We know what we can do, and we showed it tonight.”
Sunday was Lletget’s first multi-goal game since joining the Galaxy in 2015, and he said he wasn’t sure when was the last time he scored two or more goals in a game.
“I think it was a U.S. Open Cup game or something,” he said.
Lletget, as it turned out, has a good memory. His last multi-goal game with Los Angeles was indeed in the 2016 U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, in which he scored twice in a 4-2 victory over the Seattle Sounders.
“It’s been tough,” he said about a scoring drought that, mostly because of a series of injuries, includes just three goals this season and a combined four goals in 2016-2018. “It’s a mentality. You just have to keep getting in the box; Ibra (Ibrahimovic) always tells me that.
“I think it’s a confidence thing, too. It’s a mental thing.”
The importance of having other Galaxy players sharing the scoring load was not lost on the native of San Francisco who recently turned 27. Balanced scoring, in fact, has been a season-long problem for the Galaxy. Ibrahimovic has 26 goals, but next on the list is Uriel Antuna with only four.
“It adds another element to our game, for sure,” Lletget said. “I think it’s huge. Obviously, he (Ibrahimovic) attracts a lot of markers. There’s a lot of opportunities for other guys, and we have to take advantage of that.
“I think today, even my first goal, a lot of guys went with him, and that left me a little more open. And just getting in good spots … we need others to contribute for sure.”